Culture Darwinism

Where is astronomer Howard Van Till now?

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Credit: Cambridge-Templeton

Howard Van Till was once one of the best-known Christian evolutionists, but since his “What good is stardust?” article in Christianity Today arguing that nature is “fully gifted” and thus God never intervenes, he has increasingly moved toward what some describe as process theology.

He acknowledges his change of views, and has this to say in The Nature of Nature:

In what follows I shall use the term “naturalism,” when unqualified, to represent neither more nor less than the rejection of supernaturalism. Stated positively, naturalism is committed to the belief that all events that occur within this Universe are consistent with and adequately explained by the system of natural causes. This commitment necessarily entails the additional belief that the system of natural causes is fully adequate to account for all events that transpire. Focusing on the issue of the Universe’s formational economy, we can say that naturalism—as here defined -entails the RFEP.

In defining naturalism to be the rejection of supernaturalism, however, it is essential to understand that “supernaturalism” must be clearly understood as a term that can not glibly be treated as a synonym for “theism.” Supernaturalism is but one form of theism among many. By “supernaturalism” I mean the specific form of theism (among North Americans it is perhaps the most common form) that entails a commitment to the belief that God is both able and, on occasion, willing to act coercively in the sense of exercising unilateral power over nature.

Coercive divine action is a determinative form of divine action that supersedes natural action and brings about outcomes in the world that are either beyond or contrary to the capabilities of natural action. Form-imposing interventions, of the sort discussed above, would clearly fall into the category of coercive divine action. Defining naturalism as anti-supernaturalism may be somewhat unconventional, but I have come to appreciate the fruitfulness of this approach in my own reflections on the issues at hand. Most importantly, I believe, it provides the basis for dispelling the rhetorically popular but logically mistaken notion that all forms of naturalism are enemies of all forms of theism. [all emphases author’s]

– Howard Van Till, “ Cosmic Evolution, Naturalism and Divine Creativity, or Who Owns the Robust Formational Economy Principle?”, in Bruce L. Gordon and William A. Dembski, The Nature of Nature: Examining the Role of Naturalism in Science (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2011), p. 539.

2 Replies to “Where is astronomer Howard Van Till now?

  1. 1
    nullasalus says:

    Defining naturalism as anti-supernaturalism may be somewhat unconventional, but I have come to appreciate the fruitfulness of this approach in my own reflections on the issues at hand.

    It’s more than ‘unconventional’, it’s freaking empty.

  2. 2

    I appreciate Howard’s honesty, which was singularly lacking when he pretended to be a theist in order to teach at Calvin college. Nevertheless, he has obviously not read Plantinga on the subject of “naturalism”, or he would know that his definition of “supernaturalism” begs the question he is trying to answer. But being ignorant of Plantinga is also odd, because they were both teaching at Calvin at the same time, Plantinga’s brother is president, two sons on the faculty, etc. So neither Howard’s duplicity in teaching, or his new-found forthright disbelief seem, well, honest.

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